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Eliminate Ethanol Mandate: Our View

Every four years, when its caucuses are held by Iowa presidential candidates profess their undying support for a Washington mandate that forces consumers to purchase billions of gallons of ethanol, a fuel produced from corn.

Never mind that this mandate is Big Government large, a bugaboo for conservatives. Never mind that that is bad for the environment and for people struggling to make ends meet, professed bugaboos. Winning in Iowa is too important for applicants to worry as consistency with such trivialities.

The so-called Renewable Fuels Standard was sold as a method of decreasing air pollution and making America more energy independent. It specifies each year, an amount of ethanol that has to be blended into auto fuels. For 2016, the figure is currently 18.1 billion gallons, or approximately 12 percent  of the liquid in American gas tanks.

Critics didn’t have a hard time when the standard has been passed. Ethanol is more expensive than gasoline. And its tailpipe emissions are more than offset by the contamination of plowing and fertilizing farmland, and sending the corn to be processed into gasoline.

A decade ago there was at least. Oil was being imported in record amounts and expensive. Politicians could also assert that they were creating an investment in new technologies that would yield fuel from bio degradable waste and switch grasses.

Nevertheless the folly persists. Approximately 90 million acres — roughly equivalent to Indiana, Iowa and New York have been devoted to growing the corn used in ethanol. That means customers pay more, and more at the pump at the grocery store, because property was taken from food production.

Nevertheless, the ethanol mandate continues to unite politicians as if they had entered into a secret pact.

In the renewable fuels conference, Republican front-runner Donald Trump  vowed “100 percent” support for the standard. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton said she would “strengthen” it. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is hoping to have it both ways: He explained that   he would not  have supported it, but it could be unfair to carry it away today.   Cruz and Republican Rand Paul are against the mandate.

The candidates will commit to phasing out the fuels regular, if not today by 2022, when it is set to expire.   A Washington mandate makes no sense. It is bad for consumers, bad for the environment, and bad for Americans’ confidence in their own political system.